"...there are no black superheroes, they all got drafted to the NBA..."- Daniel Tosh.
A harmless joke, right? Not Really. It's a Tuesday night, and I just got home from working the front register at Walgreen's. I'm winding down the way I always do, watching Comedy Central. I love this channel, and I love Daniel Tosh. He's hilarious, if not a bit off-putting at times. Despite the best effort of Daniel and his team of writers, I'm rarely offended by his comedy. This, however, was one of the few times I was. Being both black, and an avid fan of all things comic and superhero, this joke hit home. " There ARE black superheroes!" I protested to my television, futile as I knew it was. This joke got me thinking. Unless you avidly follow superhero and comic book culture, you might think there aren't but a few superheroes of African descent. The lay person will name Storm, Black Panther, Falcon, Static,Cyborg, and Green Lantern ( John Stewart). After that, there will the inevitable furrowed brow, skyward gaze, and the " uuhhh...errr...uummm.." as they struggle to name a black superhero that hasn't been featured in a cartoon or movie. Why is this the case. That's simple. Black superheroes ( or any non-Caucasian for that matter) just don't get the same spotlight. To date, nearly a hundred white people of various nationalities have portrayed major heroes or villains dating back to the earliest portrayals of Batman and Superman in the early days of television. By contrast, the number of "ethnic" actors to portray major characters is less than 30 by my estimation. Why is this the case? Thats not so simple. This article wont delve into that issue. Instead, this will serve to educate those who aren't aware of how significant a presence blacks have in the superhero genre.
While originally white when taking human form, in recent years, the Martian Manhunter takes the form of Black man when blending into society with normal people, under the guise of John Jones, who is most often a detective, police or private. His human form is pictured below.
( Ultimate) Spiderman
A few years ago, word reached the internet that the Spiderman film franchise would be getting a much needed reboot. Fans speculated what diection the new films would take. one suggestion was that Spiderman/Peter Parker would be portrayed by a non-white actor. on name that came up almost immediately was actor/comedian Donald Glover, also know as the rapper Childish Gambino ( pictured below). This was met with equal parts enthusiasm and racism. Glover admits receiving an email stating " There just aren't black kids that are into physics and photography like Peter Parker". I, for one, love physics. I have friends who love photography ( and are black) Neil Degrasse Tyson, a black man, is one of the foremost physicists in the world. Regardless, it got the attention of the powers that be at Marvel, and Miles Morales came along. Half Black, half Hispanic, Miles Morales was inspired by both Donald Glover and Barack Obama. He's no racial palette swap of Peter Parker. He's his own character with his own story, personality, and even powers. An interesting note, Glover actually provided the voice for Morales when the character appeared in an episode of "Ultimate Spiderman"
Olympic athlete-turned school teacher, Jefferson Pierce grew tired of crime and corruption running rampant in his community and decided to use his long suppressed metahuman powers to fight crime. He's saved many lives, including Superman's by restarting his heart. During the events of Final Crisis, he sacrificed himself, becoming one of Darkseid's " Justifiers" in order to save Tattooed Man and his family. Orlando Jones has expressed interest in playing the character in a film at some point.
Icon and Rocket
Escaping an exploding alien craft in 1839 , Arnus's escape pod is found by a slave, the pod altering his DNA to mimic hers, the first sentient being he encountered. Possessing, among other powers, superhuman longevity, Arnus is still alive well into the 20th century under the name Augustus Freeman IV ( he was also I-III, posing as his own son to hide his long lifespan). When his house is broken into, Freeman unleashes his powers for the first time in decades. This is witnessed by Raquel Irving, who gives him the name "Icon" and dubs herself "Rocket". Icon possesses the abilities of Super strength, speed, agility, and longevity. He also has increased mental perception and the ability to fire positronic blasts. Thanks to a belt fashioned by Icon, rock possesses the ability to control kinetic energy.
Adam Bernard Brashear was a former fullback at Cornell University,graduated magna cum laude, and was a veteran of the Korean War, serving in the Marine Corps, receiving with two Silver Stars. This guy is a sheer badass. He has super strength, speed, flight, antimatter manipulation, energy generation, light creation and healing factor. No stranger to discrimination, he was asked to retire by JFK after it was revealed that he was black and the nation wasn't ready for a black hero at the time. His final mission was to defeat an entire alien armada, single handed. He returned to stop a rampaging Connor Sims/Antman who had managed to best the Avengers in battle.
Captain America / Iron Man
The two leaders of the Avenger were black at one point, even now.When Tony Stark's alcoholism got int way of his Iron Man duties, Rhodes filled the rollar Machine. As War Machine, he was a superhero in his own right, equal to his best friend. Naturally he was the best choice to succeed Tony Stark
First introduced in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969), Sam Wilson is mainstream comics' first African-American superhero. After years as Captain America's sidekick, Wilson was hand picked by Steve Rogers, who had become aged to an old man.
This list is for from complete, but these are some of my favorite examples of black superheroes that deserve more spotlight. A more thorough list is available on wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_black_superheroes#Marvel_Comics
The point is, there are plenty black heroes, but they need to be put to the forefront. There's a whole world of superheroes that people don't know about. It's sad because young, black fans struggle to find can truly relate to.